LAS VEGAS - After defeating former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier at his own game Saturday night for perhaps his greatest victory in a career full of highlights, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was asked whether he now considers himself the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time.
"My plan is to become the greatest fighter of all-time," Jones said at the UFC 182 post-fight press conference at the MGM Grand. "It's so feasible. It's so attainable. All I've got to do is stay focused. I've got to keep believing and keep working."
Attainable. Within his reach. A goal in his sights which is not quite yet accomplished.
Sounds like a pretty spot-on assessment to me.
There seems to be a collective habit in the mixed martial arts community whereby everyone rushes to proclaim everything the greatest of all-time in this still-young sport. Whether it's the greatest fight, fighter, event, submission, or greatest what have you, we get blinded by the moment.
But while many seemed ready to declare the changing of the GOAT guard away from Anderson Silva after last night, let's consider Jones' own words on the longtime middleweight champion.
"Anderson is a guy I respect tremendously," Jones said. "I've been looking up to him since I was 18, looking at all his fights. I really want to model my career after him. Anderson has won so many world titles and you can't discredit what he can do."
That Silva guy, the one everyone seems so quick to toss under the bus? Remember him? He was champ twice as long as Jones is at this point. Carrying the load under the most intense spotlights the way Silva did as long as he did matters.
Jones has a stronger case on overall quality of opponents, though he did go through a period in which he was fighting Silva's middleweight leftovers. Silva still has two more successful defenses (which doesn't include one opponent missing weight) than Jones. He has more spectacular, highlight-reel finishes in pivotal moments than any other champion in the sport's history (Fedor Emelinaneko is up there as well). And he also went up in weight class and scored three finishes at light heavyweight.
"I will give Anderson and Georges [St-Pierre] being above me," Jones said. "I think that attitude will keep me honest, it will keep me determined and driven. I'll keep that as my psychology until it can't be argued any more."
Maybe Jones' words placing himself beneath Silva and GSP at the moment was simply a humblebrag for public consumption. But regardless of intent, the undisputed current pound-for-pound king hit on the truth. Jones is knocking on the door, but for now, it's still Anderson Silva's house.
UFC 182 quotes
"To be honest, I'd fight Cain Velasquez in a heartbeat, I really would. I would love to fight all of AKA's best athletes and defeat them all." -- Jon Jones on potential future challenges.
"I went out to the arena and I drew energy from the fans." -- Jones, explaining why he made an appearance on the arena floor during last night's main card.
"The f-- you kicks? Yeah. That's what that was. I was either trying to kick and break my leg or his. I was very upset." -- Donald Cerrone, explaining he was taking out his anger on Myles Jury in their fight's closing seconds.
"I'm a guy, I don't like hearing boos. My legacy is I want to be fighting my ass off every time, so I don't consider that a win. I'm not happy with my performance." -- Cerrone, continued.
"I've been trying to become a champion for a really long time. At the highest level, it really hasn't worked out for me. This one's tough. I truly believed that I could get the job done. I thought I could get the job done." -- Daniel Cormier comes to grips with his loss.
"PPVs are blowing what I said out of the water." -- UFC president Dana White, who had said on Thursday that he was expecting 750,000 buys for UFC 182.
Up: Donald Cerrone. Cerrone was unduly harsh on himself in the aftermath of his one-sided victory over Myles Jury. But the "Cowboy" did his best going against an opponent who didn't seem particularly eager to engage. If anything, the opening round served as a reminder of what a killer Cerrone can be on the ground. This is a guy with 15 career submissions, something that's been forgotten over the years as he's racked up highlight-reel knockouts. Cerrone owned Jury from the bottom working submission after submission, which seemed to mentally break Jury. And his "f- you kicks" at the end put an exclamation point on the fight, turning it into a literal ass-kicking. Afterward, Cerrone lobbied to fight on next month's Denver card. Don't ever change, "Cowboy."
Hold: Hector Lombard. Lombard's victory over Josh Burkman may have seemed strange to the uninitiated. But Lombard was fighting through a bout of bronchitis, which puts his plodding performance in context. You could see his profuse sweat and labored breathing early on in the bout. Instead of going for the vaunted Lombard opening blitz, which would have left him open to gassing fast if he didn't get the job done, he stayed patient and never let Burkman get on track. While he didn't do anything to vault toward a title shot, nor should a smart performance under such conditions be held against him.
Down: Just about everyone else on the main card. From early on in the proceedings on Saturday night, the atmosphere in the MGM Grand Garden Arena felt like a major boxing event: That is, everything just seemed to be a matter of going through the paces until the main event arrived. Fortunately, the main event delivered. But while there were solid performances on the undercard - Team Alpha Male's Cory Garbrandt, for one - the main card seemed like a bunch of fighters going through the motions. This was, from all early indicators, far and away the UFC's biggest pay-per-view audience since UFC 167 and 168. This was a chance for the new generation to show the fans who tuned out what they've been missing for the past year. And far too many looked like they were simply interested in playing it safe and collecting their paycheck. That's not the way to separate yourself from the pack.
Up: Shawn Jordan. At precisely the moment the Twitter snarkers were trying to one-up each other coming up with the best Shawn Jordan fat joke, Jordan absolutely wrecked Jared Cannonier, then did a physique-defying backflip. That's two straight finishes for Jordan, who deserves a step up in competition.
Considering eight fights went the distance last night and not one decision was remotely controversial, I'm tempted to simply call that a little victory and move on. But we've got to stop and note the lack of point deductions on fouls. Marcus Brimage drilled Garbrandt in the cubes twice in the first round of their fight. The second one barely seemed to elicit a shrug, much less a point deduction. Then, in the third round of the main event, Jones eye poked Cormier. Jones has a history of eye pokes. He's never been penalized for them. What type of message does that send? In this case, Cormier was coming off his best round of the fight, the third round was even up until that point, and Jones reasserted himself in the fight from that point on. Jones would have won anyway, but why shouldn't Cormier be compensated for such a fight-altering, illegal move? As long as Jones is allowed to foul with impunity, he has no incentive to change his approach.
Fight I'd like to see next: Jon Jones vs. Cain Velasquez
I mean, why the hell not? Jones said he'd do it in a heartbeat. The only remaining real challenge of note at light heavyweight is whether he can beat Alexander Gustafsson more convincingly the second time around than he did in their close first fight. After that? Well, Jones said he's not quite at Silva's level in the GOAT debate. Silva went up to light heavyweight, but he didn't challenge the champion. If Jones was to actually go up and defeat Cain, well, that would settle the debate once and for all, wouldn't it?